Winning the Entrepreneur Magazine and Southwest Airlines Business Plan Contest was all in a day's work for Paul Hynek, 39, and Russ Colby, 59, of Los Angeles. The contest rules called for putting your business plan on a cocktail napkin--and the co-founders of Spitfire Ventures Inc. are used to working in small spaces: Their business idea features mini-books about as big as a wallet-sized photo.
Fingertip Books come with two different covers: a magnetized one that sticks on refrigerators and a laminated one for wallets. The duo's first title, Rescue 101: Lifesaving First Aid, should be hitting stores soon, and future titles range from serious topics like insurance to humorous ones like Sports for Chicks and Cooking for Guys. Planning to sell units for $1.99 to $2.99 each, Hynek and Colby envision wire racks on retail counters.
Impressed by the creativity, originality and funding potential of their idea, we asked small-biz guru Romanus Wolter, author of Kick-Start Your Dream Business (Ten Speed Press) to advise them on getting to the next level. Since Hynek and Colby have a prototype and have formed alliances with the Red Cross and Prudential Insurance, their next step is to do some grass-roots research. "They need to go out and show this to real customers," Wolter says, "get their testimonials and really listen so they can make changes the customers want."
With customer testimonials in hand, the next step is getting store managers' and buyers' input, says Wolter. From cover art to subject matter, ask them honestly what works in their store. "If one store owner turns you down, go to the next one," he says. "They know your customers better than you do." The partners should also ask local managers of national chain stores if they think they can sell the product; if so, Hynek and Colby can mention that in their pitch to the national buyer. "Focus on your intent and the benefit you provide, and listen to other people," says Wolter. Good advice, no matter what stage your business is in.